Now that we've given our abs and core a serious once over, we're ready to work our upper and lower halves.
Push-ups- there's a reason why the Marine Corps has soldiers "drop and give the drill sergeant 50!"- Because it's a great exercise to build strength in your arms, shoulders, chest and back. They're so remarkably simple, yet so effective in toning the upper body. Moreover, they can be done anywhere there is a floor- again, no excuses! In order to get the most out of them, your form must be close to picture perfect. That will also ensure that the risk of injury is minimized. With palms down and in the same vertical plane and width as your shoulders, lift your chest off the ground so that your elbows almost lock. Now lift your mid-section off the ground as well as your knees. The top of your back should be in a straight line with your butt and legs (i.e. keep your butt down and not pointing up in the air). Slowly, lower your chest until it is about one inch off the floor and then slowly "push-up" off the floor until your elbows almost lock again. Unless, you truly are a Marine, there is no need to crank out 50 push-ups in one shot while you are starting out. However, it might be a reasonable goal to work toward. 3 sets of 10 repetitions is probably a good place to start. Increase the repetitions per set as you get more adept and comfortable doing them. If that's too difficult, try a modified push-up, keeping your knees on the ground throughout the motion.
"Prisoner squats"- sounds pretty brutal. However, once again, you need no equipment. Sometimes though, all of these exercises can be done in a mirror so you can check for proper form. Squats are an excellent way to build strength in your legs, namely quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. Again, you'll get the most out of it by employing good form. Also, the fact that you don't have a barbell full of weight on your shoulders and back while doing these, will make it much safer and you won't need a spot or partner as you would doing traditional squats with weights at the gym. With feet shoulder width apart, and perfectly flat, very slightly bend the knees. Stick your butt outward and put your hands behind your head (that's where the "prisoner" term comes from in case you were dying to know). Lower your butt by bending your knees gradually. Pretend you are trying to sit down on a chair that is too far behind you. Lower your butt until your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground and keep your lower back straight. Be sure that your knees do not go farther forward than the tips of your toes. Then, slowly straighten up, pushing from the ground with your feet and NOT YOUR BACK. Straighten your legs until your knees ALMOST lock, but don't lock them. That is one repetition. 3 sets of 10-15 is, again, a fine place to start. Once your legs get stronger and these become easier, increase your reps or decrease the time you rest between sets.
Helpful hint: if you push off the ground primarily through your heels, you'll work your hamstrings more while if you push off from the balls of your feet, you'll work your quads more.
There you have it- a total body workout, without needing any equipment- and you're still able to watch your kids, or do it while they nap. Some nice things to have, but certainly not necessities, are a timer to check time between sets (you should allow about a minute) and to time your planks (see Part 1), a mirror to check form, and some music can help too. Your MP3 or stereo can fit the bill nicely. As always, be sure to check with your primary care provider before initiating any fitness program, no matter how simple.
Published On: June 16, 2008